Friday, November 22, 2019

Do What You Do Best and Forget the Rest

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

In our fast-paced and fad-rich world we live in today, I see many companies (and individuals, for that matter) try “this” one week and “that” the next week. They attempt to be overly accommodating and then drastically different, in hopes of finding or becoming the next big thing. Being innovative, agile and trying new ways of doing things is definitely important and a skill we should try to continue to get better at; however, adopting “the latest hype” or going down an untested path can cause a considerable cloud of confusion. A lack of clarity is no small issue and can foster an abundance of uncertainly and a whole lot of stress—which can lead to decreased happiness, productivity, value and revenue, among many other unwanted outcomes.

For example, a colleague of mine wants to find a new job and decided to look for an opportunity in a specific industry she has worked in before, just a different role. Good idea! But then the following week, she decided to shift her focus to a completely new path, resembling the opposite of her strengths and even working knowledge, in an effort to “do something exciting and new.” Three months passed and still no new job offers emerged. Bad luck or bad strategy? I’d say the latter.

Focusing on doing what you do best is not only a valid personal strategy, but it’s also a sound business one. In fact, recently the biggest U.S. supermarket chain decided to scale back attempts to enhance sales with new products and renovated stores to be more competitive with Walmart and Target, which unfortunately led to 1000 job cuts last month. However, instead of continuing to do what they don’t do best, Kroger is reversing course on apparel, meal kits, etc. and getting back to what they know and excel at: selling groceries.

Hopefully this conscious shift works well for Kroger and the pendulum swings the other way. Some say the change took too long or wasn’t big enough; yet, others are very optimistic. Time will tell. I commend Kroger for deciding to now spearhead targeted innovative ideas but focus on doing what they do best. I hope this revised strategy brings them unprecedented success, as I know numerous people who are happily employed by that chain.

What do you do best? Whatever it is, you likely enjoy doing it, because we tend to love the things we rock at! 
Do what you do best and forget the rest.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Delaying the Sweet Taste of Indulgence

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Have you ever wondered why you make some of the decisions that you do? I believe one significant factor that influences one choice over another is a human desire to move toward pleasure and avoid pain. By pleasure I mean things that create feelings of happiness, strength, optimism, energy, or inspiration. With pain, I am referring to feelings of anger, confusion, helplessness, frustration, or even boredom. If you are regularly able to demonstrate self-discipline by delaying pleasure or gratification, your chances for achieving success in life increase substantially. 

According to a landmark Stanford University study, children were provided one marshmallow and given the choice of eating it or waiting fifteen minutes and being rewarded for holding out with a second marshmallow. Some kids ate theirs right away. Others waited. But the study’s real significance came years later, when researchers discovered that the children who held out for the reward had become far more successful adults than the children who ate the first marshmallow immediately. This “marshmallow theory” was found to explain that the key difference between success and failure is not merely hard work or intelligence, but the ability to delay gratification.

If you are looking to delay gratification, like to save money now to be able to purchase a more desirable item in the future, here are five strategies to help you stand strong: 
  1. Be clear on your values and what matters most. Have a clear understanding of what is important to you and what you want to accomplish. When you realize these aspects, you are more likely to make choices that can help you achieve the goals and success you desire.
  2. Break down big projects/goals. Just like running, athletes train very differently for a sprint than a marathon. The long project will help you to learn about the process, setting mini-goals along the way, and ongoing persistence.
  3. Offer visual progress. Use a jar of marbles or some sort of visual tool to demonstrate working toward a goal and making progress versus giving yourself a huge reward after accomplishing a task. Once the jar is full, then you get to reward yourself.
  4. Get an accountability partner. Just like it is often times easier to workout with a buddy so that you both are less inclined to stop because you know the other person is counting on you, sharing your plan and progress with an accountability partner can help maintain your focus and discipline.
  5. Frequent reflection. When you find yourself struggling with wanting something now and you’re about to cave in, stop to consciously reflect as to why you are feeling more vulnerable than usual. Try to pinpoint the motivation and reasons behind this strong craving. This time spent in reflection just may be enough to break the cycle of “now” and allow you to postpone the pleasure. 
Delaying gratification can be hard-work. Depending on what you want to achieve, it may take weeks, months, years, and sometimes even decades. And even if you don’t always make the best choices, hopefully you learn from the poor ones and appreciate the good ones. As I contemplate my life, I know that when I exercise self-discipline to delay an indulgence or an instant pleasure, I reap the sweet rewards. I tend to appreciate it more, feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and achieve a more successful outcome. Hold it, smell it, or even lick it, but don’t gobble the marshmallow yet.

Personal Challenge: What areas in your life do you feel you need instant gratification and find it difficult to delay? What other strategies do you have for delaying gratification?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Courageously Adapt and Build Back

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Whether it is job loss, injury, debt, illness or something worse—when life-changing or stressful situations arise professionally or personally, your degree of resilience can dramatically affect how you deal with and move through the hardship. After all, it’s not the difficult situation that does you in; it’s how you choose to react to it.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. Instead, it involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. And here are five strategies to foster and enhance your team’s (or your own) level of resilience:

1. Develop a strong social network. The need for connection with others is primal…as fundamental as the need for air, water and food. Having caring, supportive people around you helps you to share your feelings and express emotion, gain support and perspective, and consider other options and solutions. And according to research, the most important aspect in helping you to enhance your resilience is to surround yourself with “caring and supportive relationships”—both within and outside your family.

This past weekend, my sister and her family came to Colorado from Wisconsin to visit my husband and I. We had a fabulous time! Here is just one of our special moments we shared together.

2. Take steps to solve problems. Compare highly resilient people with those who struggle with it. Resilient people approach and solve problems differently.  Here is what they do: 
  • Resilient people are able to spot the solution that will more likely lead to a safe outcome. Resist having tunnel vision.
  • Calmly and rationally look at a problem and envision a successful solution, rather than waiting for the problem to magically go away on its own.
  • Focus on the progress you make and plan your next steps, over becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be completed.
  • Whenever you encounter a new challenge, note important details and make a quick list of potential ways you could solve the problem.
For example, a fellow team-member decides to leave the company. More work will likely come your way—at least for a while. How would a resilient person approach this issue? Instead of agonizing over the workload or stepping into victim-mode asking yourself, “Why me?”, consider re-prioritizing your work and/or delegating any responsibilities you can. These two simple ideas may be the difference between feeling empowered over being stuck and overwhelmed. 

3. Be flexible and more accepting of change. Accept the things you can’t change. Change the things you can’t accept—by being more adaptable and flexible. Here’s how:
  • Understand nothing is permanent. It is necessary for old things to go and new things to come.
  • Realize what is really important. Sometimes people get upset over a small change. Try comparing it to a more impactful change, like losing a family member. 
  • Acknowledge there is a reason for the change, even if it isn’t clear to you. 
  • Get used to the change (or new item). You might find that you like it more.

4. Nurture a positive view of yourself and maintain a hopeful outlook. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. I have found it helps to keep a list of problems you’ve overcome and what you did to resolve them. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem.  It is about understanding that setbacks will usually pass and that you likely have the ability to combat the challenges you face.

5. Ask for—and accept—help. It is essential to ask for help when needed—from family, friends, and those you trust. And when assistance is offered, be sure you set aside your humble pie; graciously and warmly choose to accept it. Those who have our best interests at heart usually want to help us when we need it most. Accepting assistance isn’t a weakness; rather, it is a true demonstration of courage. And during a significant crisis—it may go without saying—but, seek the assistance of professionals specially trained to deal with a specific type of stressor and/or situation. 

Choose to courageously face the problems that confront you and you will not only better adapt to them, but also build back and become stronger through them.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Change is Like a Kaleidoscope

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP 

A common metaphor for experiencing change is that it is like a journey. Your current reality is point A, your desired outcome is point B, and the change process is the journey from A to B. You anticipate forks in the road (choices), roadblocks (obstacles), and milestones. You climb a metaphorical hill to get a clearer perspective and create a vehicle (strategy) to get us to point B. The problem is that a journey is not a path like you see on a map. With a journey—it is unclear as to how to reach the desired destination or outcome. Also, there is usually more than one way or one possible solution. 

A better, more empowering metaphor is that change is like a kaleidoscope. You look through the eyepiece and see a colorful pattern. With one tiny nudge of the barrel, you instantly create a new pattern, which is totally different, and the change is often permanent—just like what happens in business.    

And when change occurs, businesses and/or individuals tend to fall into one of three groups; those who: 
  1. Embrace change and thrive or
  2. Adapt to change and survive or
  3. Resist change and fade away…which none of us want!
In order to alter your mindset and behavior about change and learn to embrace it, one common dynamic to prepare for and work effectively through is negative resistance. 

When employees/individuals are going through a change:
  • 20% are “Embrace Change Immediately” - get on board and support it.
  • 30% are “Resistors” - dig their heels in and oppose it.
  • 50% are “Fence-sitters” - sit on the fence and take their time to decide.
Of these three groups, which do you think is the loudest? Which group gets more time and attention? And which group gives you back the least, in terms of investment of time? If you answered “Resistors” for all three questions, you guessed right. 

The tipping point for influencing others during times of change happens at about one-third. When one-third of the group or organization behave a certain way, the organization tips that way, and the change effort either fails or succeeds.  

If part of the Fence-Sitter group would hop off the fence to support the change, then the organization would tip, and the pace of the change accelerates with a successful outcome. 

But who is also recruiting from the Fence-sitter group? Yes…those nasty Resistors. And how many percentage points do they need to get to one-third? The answer is only three percent! So, as a change influencer, where should you be spending all of your time? Devote all your time and energy on influencing the Fence-sitters.  

Some resistance to change is normal. It is a natural attempt to slow things down, to a point of manageability; yet, when the resistance becomes overly negative, it can bring a change initiative to a crushing halt.  

So take one [tiny] nudge—or step—to positively influence change around you. When you do, you will experience a new [colorful] pattern to help continue to propel your team/organization forward, allowing it to further thrive for many years to come.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

Prescription for Pleasure

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

If there was a magic pill to make you feel happier, what would you pay for it and would you take it? Many people would consider paying a lot of green to avoid feeling blue. 

In fact, providing your basic needs are met, happiness is said to be determined more by the state of your mind than by what conditions exist or circumstances happen. 

Therefore, my prescription for pleasure, or true happiness, can actually be achieved by reshaping our mindset, attitudes and outlook. Here are 18 recommended remedies to help prevent the pessimism, treat the tears, nip the nag, and cure the crabby:

1. Choose your thoughts. Every day, choose your thoughts the same way you choose what clothes to wear.

2. Express gratitude. Many of us could be a lot happier if we practiced gratitude for what we already have rather than focusing all our attention on what we don’t have.

3. Let go of anger. Holding a grudge or holding onto any type of anger won’t do anything but cause resentment. Dwelling on the past is only going to hold you back from having a better future. Hate is a very heavy bag to carry; let it go.

4. Forget perfect. Perfection is a fallacy of irrational thinking—the more we try to be perfect, the more disappointed we will be. Rather than shooting for perfection, aim for your finest, and you will rarely let yourself down.

5. Fight the disease to please. Resist being overly concerned with impressing, winning the approval of, or incessantly pleasing others, especially when it’s at a personal cost to you. Instead, pursue and set healthy boundaries by knowing what you like, need, want, and don’t want, and then making choices which are aligned with those needs and wants.  

6. Teach your lips to say no.  Understand that you are free to say yes or no. And, when appropriate, you should do so without feelings of guilt, anger or fear.

7. Be your authentic self. Try not to compare yourself with others. Everyone is unique in his or her own way. Embrace your features along with your flaws. Be the best you that you can be.

8. Smile. Turn that frown upside down. After all, smiling is infectious; you can catch it easier than a cold.

9. Challenge negative opinions others have of you. What others think of you should never outshine what you think of yourself.

10. Lighten your load. Unless you have a large red “S” on your chest, you likely don’t have super powers, which may be what it would take for one individual to conquer the evil, mile-long to-do list. Instead, ask for and accept some help.

11. Forgive yourself and others. Move on from past mistakes and difficult situations. Holding on to these negative feels is very burdensome.

12. Own accountability. When things go wrong, be accountable for your mistakes without pointing fingers at others.

13. Expect mutual benefit in relationships. Whether at work or at home, healthy relationships should provide value and benefit for both parties. It likely won’t be the same for each of you, but it should be a shared venture.

14. Welcome feedback. Some feedback is positive, and some is constructive. Understand the intent of the other person, and try to look past how it was delivered. Choose to learn and grow from feedback you receive. 

15. Refuse to take on the problems of others. It is admirable to help others through difficult situations; however, there is a big difference between offering assistance and accepting another person’s problem as your own.

16. Celebrate successes. Celebrate personal accomplishments by treating yourself to a movie, taking a vacation day to do what you want, indulging in a small treat, etc. Additionally, get in the habit of noticing and applauding the success of others. By recognizing another person’s achievements, you are demonstrating value and appreciation for their effort and results.

17. Respect yourself. Feel an inner confidence and assurance, independent of praise from others. Remember: nobody can make you feel inferior unless you give him or her permission.

18. Be respectful of others. Look for positive and honorable qualities in others.

Being happy is a deliberate choice; a choice we make every moment of every day. Don’t target the tumultuous; instead, focus on the fantastic and be happy!

Do You Feel "The Love" at Work?

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP
Creating a culture where people feel respected, valued, appreciated, heard and included requires another level of effort that may not be getting the attention and investment it needs. If you want to work in a culture where you “feel the love”—where everyone feels a sense of belonging, connection and community—every employee needs to put forth effort to make that happen. And when you do, this feeling gets passed on to customers and results in more productivity and profit. 
But is a lack of love actually an issue? Watch this short video and decide for yourself.

Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, here are seven strategies to help you create a more inclusive workplace culture today by personally modeling it and also sharing it up, down and across your organization:

  1. Leave your assumptions at the door. It is easy and often natural to make assumptions about others in the workplace, leading to misunderstandings, biases and often wrong conclusions. The next time you find yourself assuming something of someone—even if it's as simple as "She's probably too busy"—stop yourself. Instead, ask the question first of that individual. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have an informed understanding.
  2. Create a collaborative environment. Break down silos and promote organization-wide inclusion by promoting a collaborative environment. This includes a culture of behaviors and actions that inspire, model and align with your inclusive goals. Develop cross-functional projects or meetings between teams or create a random lunch partner program. This will allow your people to meet new coworkers and learn from one another, which ultimately will strengthen your entire culture.
  3. Change your workspace. If you can do it in your workplace, leave your desk and work in a different area of the office for a few hours. You'd be surprised at how it can really change up your perspective. You may have interactions with people you otherwise wouldn't, especially if you put yourself where there is a consistent movement of people. This small change of scenery will allow for more collisions and spark new ideas.
  4. Offer a forum of expression. Having a voice by providing regular, optional “town hall” meetings to discuss anything from business decisions, business updates, department efforts or company wins will not only offer an open space where employees can voice their thoughts or concerns—but it also shows your commitment to your people and their value to the company as a whole.
  5. Demonstrate you care. Show your people you care by hosting regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and employees. Let employees know that it’s their place to openly speak their mind about what matters most to them — whether that’s about their professional development, a current project or if they’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked — start a conversation to support their journey.
  6. Rotate who leads meetings. Change up the dynamic by rotating who runs meetings. Give that individual the leeway to be creative, while ensuring you're in alignment on the goals of the meeting. This gets people engaged and sends a signal that everyone's contribution matters. When done well, this creates openings for everyone to weigh in and, hopefully, inspire lively discussions and decisive actions.
  7. Talk about something besides work. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job and not take the time to actually get to know colleagues in your office. Disrupt the status quo by having a conversation with a colleague you don't normally talk to and engage them on a non-work related topic. This connection will often improve the ease of the working relationship and enhance overall communication. 
Ultimately, individuals need to be recognized for their uniqueness but also feel connected to something bigger. An inclusive culture has many layers and millions of moments that define it, but in order to make a real impact and display an ongoing commitment to employees and colleagues, choose to take small and incremental steps to make your workplace a more inclusive—and likely more successful—environment right now.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

12 Methods to Make Meetings More Meaningful

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Why do some meeting facilitators excel at leading and managing meetings while others fail to maintain control, keep emotions in line, and can't seem to enrich the experience so attendees are engaged and want to contribute?

If you struggle with this skill or know someone who does, don't sit back and wait for the next meeting you lead or attend to be one of the 49 percent of office meetings that are found to be a "waste of time" (source: USA Today). Moreover, according to an online schedule service named Doodle, their recently published 2019 State of Meetings Report found that pointless and/or poorly organized meetings will cost U.S. companies a whopping $399 billion in 2019! Both alarming and sad.

Let's consider some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized or facilitated meetings. According to the same report, respondents most often cited:

  • Poorly organized meetings mean I don't have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%).
  • Unclear actions lead to confusion (43%).
  • Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%).
  • Irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%).
  • Inefficient processes weaken customer/supplier relationships (26%). 

So before you reserve your next meeting space, take a few moments to consider why you need to gather this group together at this particular time, who should be invited and who needs to be present, what outcomes you expect as a result of the meeting, and what impact you hope to have. Additionally, apply these 12 methods, too, and watch your meetings become more productive, easier to manage, and more meaningful for all involved. 
  1. Communicate the agenda and the meeting purpose with the meeting invitation.
  2. Leave devices at the door (or at least put them on silence).
  3. Set meeting expectations, including the length of each agenda item and overall meeting length.
  4. Avoid recapping for late-comers.
  5. Explain how ideas will be captured.
  6. Listen more, talk less, and welcome all ideas--not just those from "louder" attendees and/or extroverts.
  7. Communicate the desired meeting outcome beforehand and at the start of the meeting to ensure attendees have clarity in the goal and come prepared to articulate their points.
  8. One person speaks at a time without interruption.
  9. Welcome respectful disagreement/conflict; don't allow disrespectful comments/tones.
  10. Set up the meeting room/environment and test all technology before the meeting starts.
  11. Jokes need to be appropriate or stopped.
  12. Identify who the note-taker will be and ensure s/he understands the facilitator's expectations (capture all ideas and avoid using symbols for words). 

Below is a comical illustration of the above points NOT being demonstrated well. Enjoy it and let yourself laugh a little. After all, according to, laughter is good for the bottom line---with 81 percent of the 100 Best Companies to Work For saying, "We work in a fun environment."